“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” (~ Michael Altshuler)

When I read this quote on a friend’s Facebook page, I immediately nodded in agreement. In the world of constant inspirational messaging, these pearls of wisdom are shared and consumed with gusto, and yes, I’m one guilty participant. High from the fix of yet another motivational quote, I saw myself as a butt-kicking pilot: Confident, strutting with purpose, in my aviator sunglasses that reflected the rising sun’s rays. In my mind, I even looked sharp: The creases on my uniform pants were so tightly pressed that a fly would cut its sorry butt should it mindlessly land on my leg.

The image faded as quickly as it popped up, however. I wondered: “Is it always bad that time flies?” I distinctly recall sitting next to a friend’s uncle at party. The table was big. The room was small. The guests resembled vertical lasagna layers, melting into each other presence. The food was abundant and deliciously looking but I had to be careful. Breathing was hazardous thanks to the stink of moth repellent, alcohol fumes, and belches (probably poisonous) coming from my neighbor’s generous belly. He wanted to make me laugh, while I wanted time to move at the speed of light. Never again do I take a corner seat at a table without an emergency exit path. Ever!

But I diverged, back to the quote. Is it always good that we’re the pilots? The problem is expectations. Once we’re up in the air, we’re expected to

  • Know the optimal route to the destination: Be a roaring success as a student, worker, parent, friend, lover, provider, and a plethora of other social roles we are to play throughout our lives;
  • Be mindful of the passengers’ comfort: Otherwise, those around us will eagerly remind us with shame, anger, guilt, and exclusion that their needs aren’t met; and,
  • Not forget that the fuel tank isn’t unlimited: The clock—biological, social, mental—is ticking and every single count takes us closer to the imminent hard landing.

An autopilot can take us only up to a certain point. The thing is we don’t arrive to this world trained to be ace pilots, not even mediocre ones. Did you get a manual on how-to-be that roaring success??? I haven’t! We get on a plane that’s already in motion. But it’s quite scary to acknowledge that we’re just students with a “pilot-in-training” permit in a shaky hand. The permit with a message buried in the fine print: “Expect major and minor fuckups” — or “life lessons” in the language of inspiration. And it’s up to us to do something about them and to choose to chart our own course–however imperfect. And, perhaps, this is the good news.

Photo credit: raymondclarkeimages.

When advice is “Do nothing”

A friend called yesterday. She sounded upset from the first hello. She asked how my day went, very polite of her, but I knew she didn’t call for that. Every word sounded like a drop of water that threatened to tip the bowl filled up to its edges. I finally said, “Just say it, girlfriend. I’m here to listen.”

Guy trouble. She said, he said, and now Greece’s recent debt crisis seemed pale in comparison.

She kept asking me, “What’s next, what’s next, what’s next?” Her fears and accusations mixed with hopes and desires poured out freely. “What shall I do? Shall I call him now?” she finally asked. I was caught in the vortex of her thoughts and stifled cries, but I knew what to do. To a woman of action who wanted an immediate solution (we have this in common), I offered to do nothing. I said:

“Girl, imagine that you stand barefoot in a muddy puddle. You’re shivering from cold. While your body feels the icy grip spreading up your legs, your mind is busy. At least a portion of your brain attempts to solve a crisis of global proportions, and to do it on the phone. So, not only your guy won’t be able to fully appreciate and understand the situation (as he probably stands in his own mental puddle), but also everything you say and hear is created and processed by the confused mind that has to deal with multiple demands at once.

Get out of that mental icy water and take a warm bath! Count to 100. Or, breathe in for six counts, hold your breath for two, and breathe out for seven. Or, take a generous bite of dark chocolate. Do whatever you need to do to relax the grip of fears and unfulfilled expectations, because right now you add more of the same yet hoping for a different outcome. There might be many explanations for why each of you had done or said what now hurts, or had not done or said what would heal. Don’t I know it from my own experiences?! If you need to talk to him, do it tomorrow from the position of mental strength.”

She listened to me quietly. Then she thanked me and said that she’d think about this. I thanked her for sharing, but offered no further evidence to support my case. I learned by now that you can’t force advice onto someone, however well-intentioned. After all, she asked for advice, not a rod to prod her to act on it.

Next day my friend called again. She said they talked that evening, but both listened to each other first instead of throwing the long list of their own demands on the virtual discussion table.

I was happy. If only international crises could be resolved so easily! But for our own mental puddles, next time it rains, put on a pair of hot red rain boots. Oh, yes!


What do 60-minute orgasms and space tourism have in common? One rocket man.

Sam was a rocket scientist. That evening in a bar we talked about liftoffs and trajectories. I had no prior experience with his field of knowledge. He, on the other hand, lived it through and through and carried me into his world with great enthusiasm and a friendly smile.

He was only in his late 20s, yet he knew so much. Our discussion was fascinating. Sam himself was fascinating.

He was passionate. He wanted to change the world. And he had a plan in mind. He wanted more people to travel to space to see how beautiful and precious our planet Earth was. And still is. His vision was to transform space tourism, to open space to mankind, to give us yet another chance to be kinder to the planet, each other, and ourselves.

But Sam had also plans for womankind. After taking the pleasure course, Sam had a mission — to deliver 60-minute orgasms with all the liftoffs and prolonged pleasure trajectories that your imagination can come up with.

It was hard to decide which goal I supported more.

But the phrase “Thank you, come again!” will never be the same after that evening.

And to all men out there, I’d like to say “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist for women to like you. But are you a rocket man?”


Photo credit: Peter Kirkeskov Rasmussen.


Give someone your prana and they will live for a day. Then what?

Who hasn’t heard a proverb about teaching a person to fish versus simply giving the fish? Whether it was someone wise in China or elsewhere in the world who immortalized it (the mighty Internet is divided on the phrase’s origin), what matters is the message: “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; teach him to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” There are thousands of years behind this wisdom, but as I was reminded in my recent dream, it’s applicable not only to physical matters:

My boyfriend and I were walking in a dense jungle. The air was damp after a heavy rain; the sun rays barely squeezed through the tangled branches and plush foliage. I had a thought that I’d rather be somewhere else now, because even though I was safe and I was with the guy I knew well, the jungle scene was depressing. In contrast, he felt at home. No wonder – he lived at the heart of this jungle!

To entertain me, he used a thin wooden plank to glide down a steep dirt hill. It was fun! He steered his board making zigzag moves, the dirt was flying everywhere, the tropical birds went wild. The end of the ride wasn’t too successful: He fell into a river. We both laughed at first, but then he stopped because he began drowning. I ran toward the river bank with all my might. It was no longer a river, but a very deep swimming pool. The water was crystal clear, and I saw with terror how much he struggled to come out for air. Something was pulling him down. I reached out to him but our stretched-out fingers barely touched.

So I dived in to save him. My plan was to push him up from the pool’s bottom. However, right before I reached the water surface I realized that I had little air in my lungs. Enough only for one person.

I woke up startled. It took me a few seconds to figure that everything was fine: I was in my bed safe and sound; no one was drowning; the morning sun was shining through the window curtains. I thought:

What a dream! What a message! I have “life force,” or prana in Sanskrit, only for one person. Myself. I can help others to find their own sources of prana — but not by giving mine away. We can help others only from the state of strength. 

Yet another reminder for my recovery journey from the rescuer addiction. Later in the day as I thought more about the dream, I had another insight: “When you stop looking for people to save, people with the purpose will show up.”

Isn’t that interesting?

So, how about you? What were your recent insights?



Photo credit: Temari 09.

The moment I knew I should’ve not done it, or maybe…?

In a writing workshop we were asked to improvise on emotions and things we should’ve not done. Here’s my short fictional essay about one powerful emotion: anger.

I should’ve not touched that moronic cat of his. That mountain of ginger fur curled up on a weather-beaten leather couch with its eyes closed as if in deep self-reflection.

“Such a beautiful cat,” I nearly purred trying to impress Andy, my (hopefully longer-term) boyfriend. God, I’m so tired of lousy boyfriends who sleep with me and then suddenly are gone without a trace. The “boobs and butts” guys who reduce women to just two parts.

I walked closer to the couch to look at the cat. Andy stood with his back to me looking for something in the fridge. He said nothing. I thought that his small studio needed a good odor repellent, and that Andy needed a good bath. But I wasn’t used to speak up my mind.

“Look at its shiny fur, long whiskers, royal bushy tail.” I continued my monologue to stop the ringing of silence in my ears. I sat next to the cat on the couch.

“What’s its name?”

“It’s a he,” Andy finally said. He turned around and leaned on the kitchen counter. He found what he was looking for in the fridge. A beer bottle. “He’s my Mom’s. And his name is Dick. What’s yours?”

Oh no, not again. He doesn’t remember my name! Andy’s words exploded in my heart opening an old wound. My heart – a dart board for so many men.

“My name is Cindy.” I smiled submissively and looked down at my feet. “My mom called me Cinderella.”

“That’s because you wait for a prince, Cindy.” Andy brushed away his greasy hair from his forehead. “And they don’t exist!” He laughed like a maniac at his own joke.

I raised my head and looked directly at him through the squinted eyes. “Fuck you! They do!” My lips and hands trembled. “And they’re kind, and generous, and fun, and hot. Not like you!”

“This is your first,” Andy said with a smirk. I too didn’t believe what I just said. I mindlessly caressed Dick’s back. And then, the fat bastard sank his claws into my hand. Deep bloody scratches ripped my skin. Sharp pain seared through my hand. Andy started laughing again. And then I lost it. I grabbed the cat by its tail and tossed him at Andy. Both of them growled with pain at the contact.

“Have it, kiss your dick!” I yelled with rage and stormed out. It felt oddly good to be on the giving side of anger. I didn’t go back.


Photo credit: ~ Erebos.

Who leads your life’s orchestra?

*** Watch a video blog ***

About two weeks ago, I woke up on a beautiful Sunday morning in a great mood. The sun was shining through my big windows. The birds were chirping outside. I slept well, feel refreshed, and was eager to get up because my friend and I were going blueberry picking. Let the summer burst in colors and flavors!

To keep this positive energy flowing, I got up swiftly and danced my way to the kitchen to get some good breakfast. As I was doing my disco dance moves, I sang a long-forgotten song from a summer camp about the river, the boat, and sailing with friends. So I walked into my kitchen, and

Whoa! What the heck?         

A big chunk of the wall right above the dishwasher was swollen like the sail in the wind. That’s not the type of sail I was singing about!

With foreboding, I poked the paint with the knife, and sure enough, the water squeezed through.


I started my investigation of what has happened, but I couldn’t figure out if it was my pipe or if the water seeped through the wall from upstairs. I realized that, as the first-time home owner, I had no idea whom to call, and how quickly, in cases like this. I had water dripping and I couldn’t stop it. In fact, I was totally lost.

To make a long story short, two weeks later after countless phone calls and visits from our building’s mechanic, the water leak was found and stopped. By now, I resembled Edvard Munch’s The Scream, while my kitchen wall looked like a forged watercolor painting with blurry circles and a few moss-looking patches that the mechanic swore wasn’t mold. His team was supposed to come tomorrow to start fixing the wall, etc.

On the way from the office home, I felt tired, frustrated, and sorry for myself. I boarded the metro train and plopped on the chair. After a while, I noticed a tall man dressed in a gray suit and a burgundy bow tie who is standing across the aisle.

He looks like a conductor. Maybe is going to the Kennedy Center to perform at a concert. Interesting…

The guy had a soft smile lingering on his face. He breathed deeply as if with a deliberate effort. In my mind, he was about to raise his baton to lead his musicians through an amazing, uplifting piece. I wondered how the audience would respond.

Suddenly, I noticed a thin, white tube coming out from a small handbag he held that went under his shirt.

Wow! The guy is walking around with a tube stuck in his body, and he is content as if he won a prestigious music award!

It dawned on me that he was just happy to be alive. This thought put my kitchen problems in a very different light. Some say: “Change your attitude change your life.” How true! My dream to have my own place did come true. And now I have a home that I can take care of. Water leaks and other life challenges will come and go. I cannot completely avoid them. But I can choose to play my own music: I can get a few phone numbers of reliable contractors from friends and colleagues; I can get the building manager involved right away, not on day 10; and I can coordinate my efforts with other affected neighbors.

Like this man, I can choose to be the conductor of my own life’s orchestra.

What kind of music do you choose to play?


Photo credit: Corey Seeman.

What’s your message in the bottle?

I just watched a great video post by my friend Erik and his wife Michelle. The two of them talked about the unplanned plans and how to adjust to the unexpected – and sometimes inconvenient, annoying, and simply unpleasant – life turns without too much stress. Their number 1 advice is to write down three reasons why the current situation is good. The idea is to recognize right away something that we typically find out only after a certain amount of time, be it a month, a year, or five years. That is, every situation has a meaning and comes with valuable lessons. So, why wait for a month, a year, or five years for these life fine lessons? Discover them today!

And here’s a tip from my arsenal of not spiraling downwards to the “oh, poor me” state of mind: Think of at least one example when your plans have worked out exactly as intended or even better. (Check out how it worked for me on May 31st). Such insights help me to view my experiences as the ocean’s ebb and flow – natural, recurring, beautiful, and, ultimately representing a gift of life. So, my dear reader, if your life’s ocean tide brings you a message in the bottle, what will it be? 

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user funtik.cat)

Are you a whale or a cat? Two approaches to learning.

“And you, my dear, you are ready to drink the Kool-Aid!”

I just came back from a seminar on personal growth and I’m gushingly recounting nearly everything we learned there to a friend. This statement apparently describes me, but I have no idea what it means. The task to find a plausible answer is being processed by my brain…

Hey, guys! Spring into action, we got a new task. The brain’s Neuron-in-Chief claps to get the attention of a group of electrically excitable cells known in-house as “librarians.” You and you, the Chief points to the two closest librarians, off you go, find me the meaning of the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid.” Start with Janna’s Left Brain’s resources.

The two flashing lights set out enthusiastically on a course. They run from one area to another efficiently sifting through pages of English vocabulary that I gathered by studying and reading. They also check the folders and read the sticky notes with English idioms and sayings that I accumulated over time. They even skim through the restricted files of the past personal experiences in case there was some cool aid provided to me. The word “drinking” is easy but they can nothing useful so far on either “Kool-” or “Cool-Aid” together with “drinking.”

Time is ticking, the more experienced librarian makes a quick assessment of the situation. And she still has no idea how to react. The two flash their lights more intensely getting more concerned.

Let’s consult with Ms. Abstract Thinking, a more adventurous (or desperate) librarian offers tentatively. I know she inhabits Janna’s Right Brain, and I know that we prefer to be self-sufficient, but we can’t let her hang there forever.

Ok, let’s do it. Ladies first!

They find Ms. Abstract Thinking lounging in a comfy papasan chair with her feet up on a small stool. The chair is by a humongous window that is open in a room with no walls. A glass of chilled white Sangria stands on a floating tray next to a box of chocolate biscotti.

She will get fat.

No, she thinks too much.

The two librarians giggle at a joke that only they can understand.

Startled by the noise, Ms. Abstract Thinking emerges from some nebulous world she was floating in and focuses her eyes on the two visitors.

What you’re looking for refers to an approach to learning, Ms. Abstract Thinking says in lieu of a greeting. The friend’s phrase might have some negative connotation, but no offense will be taken. She lifts her glass of wine to make a sip as if the issue is resolved and it’s time to go back to the other dimension. The chunks of peaches bump against ice cubes.

Ok, thanks…but we still don’t understand why the friend used the phrase. The issue was not resolved from the visitors’ point of view.


Let me tell you a few facts about whales and cats. Ms. Abstract Thinking shifts in the chair getting even more relaxed, and then continues:

Whales, as you know, are large marine mammals, constantly in motion, constantly in need to supplement lost energy. Hence, they eat often. How? It depends on their species, but blue whales, for example, feed by opening their mouth wide and allowing prey to stick to their mouth plates, which look like bristles of a comb. Krill, fish, and plankton get filtered in, while the water is expelled out. Sometimes floating trash in polluted waters also gets in. The filtering system fails, and the whale gets sick. But overall it works to the whales’ advantage. Cats, in contrast, are fussy and are highly selective in what they eat. They use their impeccable sense of smell in order to get a comprehensive picture of the food, even from a distance. Cats may need to be tricked to try a new kind of food by mixing it with something they already like or with food with stronger smell. The cat might still refuse the food, but it may get to like the new treat. In the end, this approach of food assessment also works. So, whose system of nourishment is better?

Both are equally good for the type of the animal, proposes one librarian.

Exactly! Ms. Abstract Thinking picks up a piece of biscotti.

But what do your zoology facts have to do with the “Drinking Kool-Aid” phrase? The other librarian looks like he was duped.

Think about it! Janna’s learning style is that of a whale: She is open to whatever comes her way; she filters the information; and retains what’s of interest. Her friend, on the other hand, is more like a cat: She is very selective at first, to the point of skepticism and denial; she might need to be extra motivated to explore new perspectives; but then, with time, she will embrace some of the new ideas.

The epiphany bulb is finally lit.

And to find the literal meaning and the origin of the phrase “Drinking the Kool-Aid,” use Google, you guys from Left Brain are good with it. Ms. Abstract Thinking raises from the chair, winks at the two librarians, and walks through the open window into the misty air.

The two librarians are left to ponder whether she really winked at them or just blinked.


(Photos courtesy of Flickr users stephenhanafin and FedericoLukkini)

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” How many times have I heard and repeated this Buddhist saying? Well, many. And yet again, the mind does the trick and veers onto the suffering path…

It’s barely past 8 am on Saturday morning. I was waiting in line to renew my driver’s license at a DMV office. An already-tired mother of three small, high-energy kids was standing in front of me. A guy behind me was watching a soccer game on his smart phone. The little kids run amok as they burned their calories and my patience. The guy decided to crank up his speakers so he could hear the commentators better, or maybe he was getting progressively deaf.

Meanwhile, I was trying to concentrate on reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I was trying really hard to soak in every word of this powerful book about life in a Nazi death camp and learn the lessons for spiritual survival. Alas, I was getting distracted by the noise around me and the nagging thoughts in my head: Why can’t they all quiet down a bit? Couldn’t she arrange for a babysitter this morning? Doesn’t he know that there’s such a thing as a headset? Thanks to them, I had to re-read the main message three times! The message was:

There are forces in life beyond our control that can strip away everything except our freedom to choose how we respond to the situation.

On the fourth time, I finally got it. I finally saw the gap in my thinking between where I wanted to be (or, perhaps, I assumed I was already there) and where I was at that given moment.  Also, a wave of gratitude washed over me for being alive, for having the senses that reacted to the noise and sight, and for the opportunity to “find significance in the very act of living” on this peaceful day.

Lessons 1-5 from the journey to bodacious enlightenment

In a few days I’ll be adding one more candle to my birthday cake. As I eagerly await sharing a yummy dessert with my friends, my mental taste buds are inspiring me to share something else: five lessons that the past year has brought to light and continue to crystallize in my mind.

#1. I want a resounding “Yes!” to be my answer to the questions, “Have I lived fully thus far?” “Have I loved openly”? and “Have I made a contribution?” These questions became my guiding stars. Thanks, Brendon Burchard, for raising them and challenging me to think about them! But they also came with the understanding that sometimes the answer would be a sheepish “No” or a self-doubting “I’m not sure.” And that’s OK! I’ve learned that taking small steps toward a “Yes” to these questions is better than taking a back seat in the car of my life and resign myself to complaining, “What’s the difference? The driver just sucks.”

#2. I’m here to explore the mysteries of life, not to solve all its problems. Whether I’m completely lost or simply need a bit of encouragement, I try to look at the situation as a challenge, as a teacher, rather than another annoying problem on my long list to do. It kind of adds a more powerful “Umph” into my actions and thoughts.

#3. I want to spend 24/7 with my best friend (well, maybe 23.5/7, no one is perfect!), not my worst enemy. This year brought yet another series of reminders that how I view my triumphs and mistakes determines my happiness and state of mind as much as – actually more than – how others react to them. Are my achievements a matter of luck and not very deserved coincidences or a pattern for which I’m grateful? Are my mistakes just ‘missteps’ or a painful reminder that I continue to fail?

If my mind plays the same broken record, I remind it of its special powers. It’s called brain’s neuroplasticity – or the ability to change neural pathways in response to new behaviors and thoughts. Or put simply, the power to re-write the recordings of the past. So, let’s take that damn soldering iron tool, or a hammer if needed, and rewire the damaging feed-back loops. And while I’m channeling Leonardo (Da Vinci, not DiCaprio), …

#4. I’m transitioning from being Dr. Fix-It toward Dr. Inspire. Enough of being someone else’s project manager! It’s taxing, time consuming, and generally brings such meager results that it’s not worth the mental and physical effort. Surprise, surprise, but I found that pushing my opinions on others promotes more heel digging and resistance in them. Why not focus my energy on what I have more control over and where the results are more pronounced? Myself.

Meanwhile, what do you think of the idea that we represent the average of the five people we spend the most time with? If that’s indeed the case, I want my average to be high. Therefore,

#5. I surround myself with and invest in people that support me on my journey. It’s easy to get on the path of self discovery, but it’s hard to stay on it. Consciously or not, others “help” derail our glorious plans to set ambitious personal goals, to start a new business venture, or to just eat fewer donuts. I had to say a few good-byes in the last 2 or 3 years to people with whom I always felt down, drained, and unappreciated. They taught me their lessons. I’m thankful for them. But it’s time to move on. I also expanded my circle and built relationships with people that speak, or at least learn to speak, the language of spiritual and personal growth.

And on the days when nothing seems to work, I find songs that capture my feelings of the moment. I sing, and sometimes belt out, the tunes to release whatever is in my heart. My latest favorite is a song by Aerosmith: “It’s amazing, with the blink of an eye, you can finally see the light” La-la-la… Yeah…